In the movie I Am Sam, it is obvious fairly early on in the movie that Lucy is developing quite normally. What things do you think Sam has done as a parent that might have actually fostered her cognitive development?
If the incident with the prostitute had never occurred, do you think child and family members services would have ever paid any attention to Sam and Lucy?
While I Am Sam is fundamentally a sentimental movie, there are some essential truths that prevail in the narrative of this film. Certainly, it is a testimony to the power and effectiveness of love in fostering emotional and intellectual growth in a child. For instance, studies have shown that primate babies will die if they are not "mothered" and held. Social interaction is necessary for the higher-intellect animals. Documentation of deaths or illnesses of neglected children in orphanages in the past are further evidence of the importance of emotional warmth. So, in the movie, the attention and emotional support provided to Lucy by her father and his agoraphobic neighbor and ADD afflicted best friend, as well as other disabled friends Brad and Joe, contribute to the development of Lucy, who receives love just as any child should. For instance, at one point Lucy decides that she does not want to read because her father is incapable. His unintentional wisdom comes from the heart:
Lucy: I don't wanna read it if you can't.
Sam: No, because it makes me happy! It makes me happy hearing you read. Yeah, it makes me happy when you're reading.
Lucy recommences her reading. Further, Sam tells his daughter,
"OK, remember when Paul McCartney wrote the song "Michelle" and then he only wrote the first part, Annie said. And then he gave that part to John Lennon, and he wrote the part that said, "I love you, I love you, I love you." And Annie said that it wouldn't have been the same song without that... "
This depth of feeling that Sam has and the strong bond of love that Sam and Lucy possess is cause for anxiety in their neighbor Annie, who says,
I worry all the time. I worry if they take Lucy away from her father they will take away an enormous piece of her, and I worry that she will spend the rest of her life trying to fill that hole.
And, of course, Lucy's natural intelligence and curiosity contribute to her development. It also helps Lucy's normal development that despite his intellectual limitations, Sam is a rather well-balanced man. He is also one who has a depth of emotion which "normal" people sometimes lack. Sam values his friendships and he pursues relationships of value. These characteristics lend a certain stability to the home life of Lucy, a positive factor toward her normal development. In fact, Rita Turner, the foster mother to whom the court later assigns Lucy, is so moved by Sam's basic decency and humanity that she tells him, "I think I've gotten more out of this relationship than you have."
Because the Social Services of many areas are so busy and Sam works and is a good parent, his situation may easily have been overlooked, just as some instances in which older people are left alone during the day are overlooked until one may wander off or something else that draws public attention. However, if the school officials ever were to meet with Sam in a parent conference or such, it seems they would become cognizant of his limitations.